Recently I had an interesting discussion on my personal Facebook page. I had shared a picture with my friends – the Mail icon on my phone which showed I now had over 1,000 unread messages.
This started the most spirited discussion I’d had on Facebook for a while (given that I don’t join in on political discussions, where most of the spirited activity takes place these days).
It was interesting to hear the varying reactions to this milestone. A few friends thought my 1K+ number was pathetic and shared their higher numbers. My friend Karrye won the battle and impressed us all with over 15,000 unread messages.
For some, seeing that red alert with a large number throws them into a pit of despair – the unread email signifies incompletion and causes stress. Some of us just don’t like to see a visible indication that something is unfinished.
To quote my friend Sean, “You all are making me physically sick! I need *Inbox Zero* every day – it drives me crazy to see mail pending!”
Torie said “Seeing notifications like that on my phone gives me a huge stomach ache horrible feeling.”
And Meg: “That is giving me the OCD heebie-jeebies right now”
For other friends, that number is no big deal. For example, Donna says “it’s too time-consuming to delete all that email”. Patty adds “I don’t consider emails something that have to be read or deleted until I’m bored on a train or something.” For these friends, seeing that number just doesn’t affect them.
I think deep down inside we’re all either team “Zero inbox” or team “Don’t care inbox”. The following tips are for Team Zero Inbox – for folks who stress out when that red indicator lights up with a growing number day after day.
- Turn off notifications (the red number)
- Use unroll.me or similar service
- Unsubscribe directly from iOS 10 email
- Delete unread email in bulk
- Turn off email alerts from social media
Turn Email Notifications off – get rid of the badge (the red number)
This is kind of like cheating, but it works. If you get stressed out seeing that little red number, called a badge, get rid of it. Your email will still be there but you won’t have a constant visual reminder.
1. Go to Settings – Notifications – Mail.
2. You can turn notifications off completely at the top, which will turn off all email notifications for all accounts, or you can fine tune it. For example, I have four email accounts sync’d to my phone. Suppose I want alerts for all except Yahoo. I’ll select the Yahoo account, and then change the notification settings for this account only.
Here, I’ve turned off any display in the notification center. No sound will play when I receive an email. There will be NO BADGE ICON!! YAY!! And I won’t see notifications on the Lock Screen.
As you can see, this has drastically decreased the badge notification number (since Yahoo is my primary account). I’m feeling more relaxed already.
Use Unroll.me or similar service for email subscriptions
I started using Unroll.me over a year ago. I can’t remember where I heard about it – maybe from a blogging friend – but it’s been a real time and sanity saver for me. Unroll.me will check your incoming subscription emails and based on rules you’ve set up, either:
- Roll them up into one daily email. Instead of being bombarded with email throughout the day, you’ll get one email from Unroll me, with a summary of your subscriptions. Click on the summary to read the full email.
- Unsubscribe (attempts to unsubscribe, and puts them in the trash).
- Keep them in the Inbox.
Here’s my Rollup today – I’ve got 6 new subscriptions in the Inbox. I can either Add to the Rollup, Unsub, or Keep in the Inbox. Thanks for the coupon, Bed Bath & Beyond, but you can go into the Rollup. Hall & Partners? I have no idea what that is – I think I’ll Unsubscribe from that one.
As you can see, so far I’ve rolled up 289 email subscriptions and unsubscribed from 154, keeping only 86 in my Inbox. I could probably go through the 86 and reduce it even further.
The nice thing is that the Rolled up emails don’t count as unread messages. They are sent to a folder and are considered “Read”. So this really helps to reduce that little red notification number. Lower number = lower stress!
Unroll.me is free and works with web-based email services such as Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail/Outlook.com, AOL, and iCloud. You can also use the Unroll.me app.
Unsubscribe from mailing lists easily from iOS 10
This one is for you iPhone users who have updated to iOS 10. When you open a promotional or subscription type email on your phone, you can unsubscribe with one quick click at the top of the email. Apple detects email from mailing lists and gives you an “Unsubscribe” link right at the top. No more digging around the isty-bitsy-non-readable-font-size link at the bottom of the email.
Get rid of unwanted subscriptions and you’ll automatically reduce the amount of email you receive, and thus the number of unread messages in your Inbox.
Here’s an example (not that I want to unsubscribe from Simply Recipes, my food blog hero!)
Delete unread email in bulk
I think the reason we leave unread messages in our inboxes is that it’s just too time-consuming to try to get rid of it. But for those who really, really get annoyed when the unread messages start to build up, here are a few ways to delete them in bulk. You’ll still have to take some time but if you have 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there, you can make a dent in it. Using this technique I reduced my unread messages from over 1,000 to just over 250.
The basic method is to find an email from one of your worst offending senders. Then sort or filter by Sender, select all messages, and hit the DELETE button. The actual steps vary depending on your email service. Here are instructions for Yahoo and Gmail.
1. Go the left navigation and find “Smart Views”.
2. Click the little arrow to the left of Smart Views and Choose “Unread”. You now have a list of all your unread message. You can go ahead and click the check box way at the top, to select all these message and delete them all at one. Voila!
3. Or, if you’re not quite ready to get rid of them all, you can find the worst offenders and just delete those. For example I have a lot of email from Ulta Beauty. I probably signed up for a rewards program at one point to try to get a deal. Hover over one of these messages and click the magnifying glass to “Search messages from this sender”.
You’ll get a list of all the message from that sender.
4. Click the check box all the way at the top, and then click Delete. I just blew away 106 unread messages, woo hoo! (They may look like they are still unread after this step – they are, it’s just that they now reside in your Trash folder, so go ahead and empty the trash folder to permanently remove them.)
Bonus tip – you can refine your search of unread messages (click the word “Refine”) to add a date range. For example, find all unread messages in your inbox going back 7 days, 30 days, or a custom date range. Unread messages dating back to 2008? Buh-bye!
Gmail provides powerful search, sort, and filter options. I am not an expert on using these features. But I found a quick way to sort the Inbox by a particular sender and then delete all the messages, based on the article here:
1. Go to the search box at the top of your Inbox. Start typing Unread and you’ll see label: unread. This gives you a view of unread messages.
2. To filter this list by Sender, hover over one email and a little contact card will pop up. Click on the word Emails to see other messages from this Sender.
3. Now you’ll have a list of unread message by this particular sender. Click the select box up at the top to select all the messages, then click the Trash icon to delete them.
Turn off email alerts from social media
When I followed the previous steps to find and eliminate unread messages, I noticed that a lot of them came from social media sites. Facebook really wants me to know that I have more friends than I think. That’s nice to know, but please don’t send me a daily email with this information!
Here are links to the Notification settings pages for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr. Options vary but you can usually turn of e-mail notifications completely, or fine tune them to reduce the amount of email.
Are you team Zero Inbox? Here’s your homework: try one or more of these tips next time you have a few minutes to spare. Come back and leave a comment- let me know how many email messages you were able to delete! Or, let me know what other tips you have for managing your email.